Austin Caperton Jnr created the Glade Springs resort in the early 1970s. A few years earlier, he had visited Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and played a couple of golf courses designed by George Cobb.
Cobb had worked alongside Bobby Jones during the 1960s when they refined many of the holes at Augusta National. Indeed, Cobb also designed its 9-hole, par three course. He also laid out a large number of resort courses in the two Carolina states during this time.
Caperton had been so impressed by Cobb’s work, he knew there was only one architect he could ask to construct the first 18-hole layout at his new West Virginian site. And so, the George Cobb-designed course at Glade Springs opened in 1973. What is now the back nine opened first with the second nine being completed a year after.
Over a million cubic yards of earth was moved during construction to shape many of the contours, with water incorporated into several of the holes. Most of the fairways are tight, bounded by mature trees, and they lead to very large, well-bunkered putting surfaces.
In fact, greens are so big, they cover a total area of 225,000 square feet (the greens on holes 6 and 8 are over 80 yards deep) which translates into an average of 12,500 square feet per green. It’s been said the course has the third biggest greens in the United States (after two courses in California) but even if that statistic is incorrect, Stonehaven certainly has the largest putting surfaces of any course east of the Mississippi.
Architect Tom Clark updated the course around the time he was adding the Stonehaven course to the property in 2003, re-outlining many of the fairways because the lines had changed substantially over time. He also installed more fairway bunkers to define landing areas and added around 300 yards in length by building new tees to stretch the course to over 7,100 yards.
The 419-yard, par four 16th hole is the signature hole on the course and danger lurks every yard of the way from tee to green. Tee shots require a forced carry across water to a landing area that lies between sizeable ponds. The approach must then be played across this second body of water to a narrow green elevated behind a deep-faced front bunker. Good luck with marking a four on your scorecard at this hole.
The Cobb course is the oldest at Glade Springs and the greens are ginormous. Although, I still missed quite a few. The first hole is a welcoming dogleg right. Favor left of center off the tee for the best angle in to this green with two bunkers right. The 2nd hole is a reachable par five but it is tight, leans a bit to the right and is tree lined. The green has two bunkers front right and one back left. The first par three is long and surrounded by five bunkers. Not an easy hole, as a testament to that, it is the number 11 handicap hole. The 4th is a birdie oppty, tree-lined but short. The green is shaped like a cross with bunkers squeezing the bottom on both sides. Back pins easier to get to. The fifth is the number one handicap hole. A par five that doglegs right with a fairway bunker on the outside elbow about 250 yards out. A strong cut would give you the best chance to get home in two but there is not a lot of margin for error. A water hazard cuts across the fairway starting about 190 and ends about 130 yards out. Play it as a three shotter. The 6th is a long straight away par four with a tee shaped green with bunkers squeezing the front. The 7th is another long par three with a large front bunker. The 8th is a dogleg left, tree-lined but a good birdie oppty. The 9th is a beast of a par four, straightaway but at 475 yards you will need to hit two good shots.
The back starts off with another tough par four that doglegs left and is only 470 yards. The 11th is a straight away par four that does have three large bunkers around the green and a small water hazard right. The 12th is the shortest par five and is definitely reachable, just avoid the left fairway bunker. The bunker complex on this green is very similar to the 11ths. The 13th is a long Florida par three. The 14th is the shortest par four on the back and leans a bit to the left. A water hazard sneaks into play short and left of the green. The 15th has a small water carry and is a short sweeping dogleg right. The long 16th has two water carries. If you are going to miss, right is better. I am amazed that this is the number 6 handicap hole. The 17th is the shortest par three and while it has a small water carry it is the number 10 handicap hole. The 18th is the longest par five. The fairway runs out at about 250 yards and resumes about 100 yards later.
Of the three courses, it is my third favorite.
I found the Cobb course to be a classic 70's resort layout. That's not to say Cobb didn't do a great job; he did and there are some really good holes. I feel like overall there was probably a little bit of overkill in the design but that was the beginning of an era where that was taking place. The Cobb was in decent condition when we played in in the summer of 2017. It wasn't excellent but to be fair it was receiving a ton of play. The Glade Springs resort offers a really good value (bang for your buck) especially if you can handle 36 or even more in a day. We really enjoyed our time there and had a great steak dinner to boot in the restaurant.